Today we are lucky to have a guest post from remote worker and blogger Marieke Guy. In this article she recounts her own transition to remote remote work and then to becoming a champion for remote workers; discusses the concept of “event amplification”; and talks a little about the future of distributed teams.
Hello, I’m Marieke Guy and I work for UKOLN, a centre of excellence in digital information management. I’ve been there for 10 years now and have worked on a variety of different ‘information management’ projects. The majority of my work today centres around the Web (especially Web 2.0 and beyond), digital preservation and innovation. There’s more on my staff page.
Why be a Remote Worker?
UKOLN is based at the University of Bath. For those of you who haven’t heard of Bath it’s a small but very beautiful city in the south west of England and a top tourist haunt because of its Roman connections. The most famous landmark is the Roman Baths but there is lots of other amazing architecture including the Royal Crescent, the Circus, the Weir and Pulteney Bridge. Being such a great city Bath is an expensive place to live and soon as we’d started a family it made sense to move out of the city to somewhere we could get more for our money. We now live about 40 minutes out of Bath in a small town called Melksham.
After I started back to work following my third lot of maternity leave commuting to work no longer made sense. Getting to Bath usually involves sitting in a long traffic jam twiddling your thumbs, and doing the school run now meant that I was permanently late. UKOLN has a great attitude towards flexible working and was happy to let me work from home. As time moved on and I got into the swing of things (the technologies to use, keeping yourself motivated, how to work on the move, what to eat for lunch!) I was given the role of ‘Remote Worker Champion’ and became the main representative for the remote workers (there are currently 7 UKOLN remote workers). I really wanted to take a proactive approach to remote worker support so have written a number of articles on related issues and set up a blog (Ramblings of a Remote Worker) to share my thoughts.
My initial investigations into remote working has also led to a series of Ariadne articles:
- A Desk Too Far?: The Case for Remote Working looked at the the pros and cons of working off-site
- Staying Connected: Technologies Supporting Remote Workers looked at technologies that can support you if you are working off-site
- A Support Framework for Remote Workers gave an case-study of the evolving structure to provide consistent support to UKOLN colleagues who work remotely
In September 2009 I was lucky enough to be to win the accolade of Remote Worker of the year for my services to the remote worker community. I have also presented at international events like Online Information on remote working and blurred boundaries.
What about Virtual Teams?
The benefits of home/remote working are becoming clearer. Remote workers are often more productive, more loyal, absent from work less and given the rise in office space have lower overheads to account for. There are also environmental benefits to add to the mix. My experiences of remote working have been highly positive and I feel that they have a lot to offer many people, not just those who work somewhere other than a ‘normal’ office. Many people work on-road or from home occasionally, and even more work in virtual teams.
Much of my recent work in this area has looked at the kind of technologies that help us communicate with those we are physically removed from. For example I am very interested in the use of Twitter. I have used Twitter for a couple of years and have found it to be very useful in staying in touch with my (virtual) peers. A recent digital preservation project I was involved in looked at Twitter and Twitter Archiving, primarily through the use of a tool called Twapper Keeper. I have also been watching the Library of Congress acquisition of the Twitter Archive with interest.
What about Event Amplification?
Another area I’m interested in that is useful to us all but has close links with my virtual team and remote working work areas is ‘event amplification’. Lorcan Dempsey, a former director of UKOLN, coined the phrase in 2007 and since then many organisations have begun to see the benefits of allowing their conferences to be amplified “through a variety of network tools and collateral communications“. The idea is that resources from events can be shared – prior to, during and after the event takes place. This has obvious implications for us all, you now no longer need to be physically at an event to participate. You can watch the streaming while the event is on, tweet during the discussions and access the resources. Not only this but the benefits of the event now have a longer shelf-life as they can be used time and time again after an event!
There are now some great free tools out there for people to use. For example to stream somebody talking at an event you could use: Live stream, Bambuser, Qik, justin.tv, Ustream, IPadio or Livestream for Facebook – to name but a few.
While the future for many of us working for UK Universities looks a little grim due to the economic climate the future for any form of remote working (and here I’d lump together online events, online learning, remote working, virtual teams etc.) looks bright. Using technologies to bridge both the gaps of time and space makes total economic and environmental sense. As some might say it’s a win, win situation as long as people embrace the new and ensure that they support each other through the changes.